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Need for mental health services could double due to Covid-19, professor says

A psychology professor believes the impact of Covid-19 on people's mental health could have an impact for years to come.

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Richie Poulton says NZ has done well to rid the nation of a physical threat from the virus, but that "the hard stuff is really coming". Source: Breakfast

Professor Richie Poulton has today released a report which had an urgent message about Covid-19 and it's impact.

The work, produced by Koi Tū: The Centre for Informed Future, of which Mr Poulton is an association member, calls for a rapid and radical redesign of New Zealand's mental health services as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Professor Poulton told TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning, the impacts of Covid-19 on the wellbeing of New Zealanders could almost double demand for mental health services over the next two years.

"We still haven't grappled with the truth of the situation that is to be human is to be vulnerable and at times, most of us have felt pretty lousy, for whatever reason in our lives, and there's no shame in admitting to that, and right now we have a massive external stresser that we didn't anticipate very well," he said.

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New Zealanders are worried about new arrivals into the country and how the nation will shift to Level 3. Source: 1 NEWS

"I guess what I hope happens here is, we're not seeing it as alarmist or unrealistic in thinking that immediate increase in need may almost double for the next couple of years - that's probably a realistic assessment, others concur with that from around the world, we're not alone in thinking that.

"The key to knowing this is that we can be prepared, we can actually do better than we had done at the beginning of the physical threat from Covid-19. Credit to all those that came together and have got us to where we're at - but let's not delude ourselves, the hard stuff is really coming."

In any given year, an estimated 20 per cent of New Zealand's population is affected by mental health challenges. Due to Covid-19, that figure is tipped to significantly increase and could reach as high as 40 per cent of population for a period.

"The challenges inherited by what has occurred will stretch everyone no matter how good they are at coping. We are dealing with an unheralded and complex challenge that is surrounded by uncertainty, is likely to go on for some time," Mr Poulton said.

"I know there is euphoria right now because we've hit Level 1 and people are naturally feeling some relief and they'll enjoy the footy at the weekend and partying with their mates, but lets not delude ourselves, the real challenge has just begun and that's related to confronting the deep societal changes that have occurred."

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The family of one man says he died not from coronavirus, but from severe anxiety linked to isolation. Source: 1 NEWS